There’s an old saying that goes like this:
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
In the Druid world, that old saying was changed slightly to read:
When the going gets tough, Druids go for a drink.
And so it was that as the realization began to set in among the various hamster-seeking groups that they really had no idea of what was in Rancid’s brain, or (more importantly) where he had taken the furry captives, their minds turned instead to alcohol and other libations. And when Druids are thirsty and confused, there’s just one place they like to go: The Foggy Duck.
Just as Green Druid with her kitten, Kitten, Thailand with her hedgehog, Lugh, Saille, WildChild, Lizzy, Merla, Wolfsprit, Barmybam, Explorer, Creirwy, Moon Cloud and Arrianhrodd were about to set off from the pub on their bicycles, they heard a roar and looked up to see Merlyn arriving on his Harley, and stumping alongside was his basement dragon, Cinder.
The bicyclists delayed their departure to greet Merlyn, and while they were doing so, up walked Donata with her faithful German shepherd, Tara by her side.
Then, just as they were greeting Donata and patting her dog, a shadow passed over, and looking up, they spied Wolfwalker aboard his dragon, Chessie banking in for a landing.
Before the group had finished greeting Wolfwalker, Crow and Beith walked up, and before these newest arrivals had been greeted (although few were actually greeting Crow), another rumble was heard and Wilmer rode up on his miniature Harley, drawing a glare from Merlyn.
But before Merlyn could chastise the hamster for running off so suddenly, Lorraine, still wearing her apron embossed with the Wayward Druid B&B logo, arrived at the pub.
Shortly thereafter, Azrienoch arrived, and before he’d had half a chance to shake hands with everybody, up walked Lily, looking flushed from dashing about town taking in all the sights.
The greetings were again interrupted by a loud whooshing noise, and everybody looked up to see Kat Lady and Dair Ciúin arriving aboard Snarg.
Snarg had no sooner landed and his passengers disembarked than up walked Selene, who had wisely just quit her summer internship as a reporter for The Pagan Press.
With so many new arrivals, all of whom looked to be absolutely parched, the bicyclists gave up their plan, and everybody pushed their way back inside the pub, their collective thought being that if they couldn’t solve the mystery, at least they might slake their thirst.
Gladys was so busy filling drink orders and answering questions about Rancid that she was growing even more ill-tempered than usual, and things might have gotten dangerously out of control if not for the fact that Selene, who is an administrator,
stepped forward and called for order.
The room grew quiet as everyone looked to her with expectation and admiration in their eyes.
“Okay everybody, now that we’re all refreshed and before any of us get a little TOO refreshed, if you know what I mean,” she said, glaring at Thailand and Donata, who hastily set their tumblers on the bar, “I think it’s time we tended to the business that has brought us all here. In short, where the hell are all the hamsters?”
Again pandemonium ensued, as everybody rushed to put forth his or her theory first. Selene, strolling around the room, heard snippets of conversations:
Lorraine to Moon Cloud: “I tell you there were crow feathers in her room, and also a cowboy hat and a dog collar. And if you’ll just look around, Crow is here but Billy Joe Bob and Esther Fodd are nowhere to be seen! Why? Well because they’re all the same person of course, and …”
Dair Ciúin to Thailand: “It’s all linked to the Eisteddfod, I’m certain. Crow makes Rancid do all his dirty work, and so of course the poor brute rebelled and misbehaved. Now I admit I haven’t figured out why he took to kidnapping hamsters, but there has to be a connection, and if we just …”
Beith to Green Druid: “I see that’s hot chocolate you’re drinking. Did you know that hot chocolate is a beverage that was actually developed by the Druids living near Tara Hill, and in those ancient times …”
Crow to Gladys: “So, for the record, when was the last time you saw Rancid on the night of …”
Wilmer to Tara: “Surely, as a dog yourself, you must have some insights as to why Rancid would take my Myrtle and all those others …”
Returning to her place near the center of the bar, Selene again called for silence. Again she spoke: “I’ve been walking around and I’ve heard lots of theories, lots of conjecture, and lots of blarney,” she said, looking at Beith. “But I have heard one good idea, and that is from Wilmer, who suggests that Donata’s dog might be able to telepathically reach into the mind of Rancid, and so provide us clues as to where he is and what he is doing with the captive hamsters. But there’s a problem in that Tara only speaks Dog, and being a German shepherd, only speaks it in a German dialect. We’ll need someone who speaks German to go into a trance, meld with Tara’s mind and then provide an English translation. Now, does anybody here speak fluent German?”
All eyes went to Lily.
“Wait a minute,” said Lily. “Yes, I speak German, but I’m very skeptical that I could be put into a trance, meld with the mind of a dog and translate what it’s saying, and even if I could, I’m even more skeptical that Tara, who is here, could know what Rancid, wherever he is, is thinking. I just came in here to get a drink, really, I’m skeptical that I’ll ever be served with such a crowd, but, no, hey, wait …!”
Despite her protests, Lily was pushed into the center of the room, where she, along with Tara, were seated on the floor.
“Now, Merlyn, I know you have some experience in this sort of thing,” said Selene. “Put them both in a trance!”
Merlyn stepped forward to obey, and after a brief incantation, Lily and Tara were both slack-jawed, vacant-eyed and drooling.
“Now Tara,” said Merlyn to the dog. “Reach out to the mind of Rancid. Tell us what you see, and Lily, translate it for us.”
Crow, now perched in the rafters, watched everything and scribbled in his notebook. He was with Lily on this one, and felt very skeptical that this would work, but his job was to report the news, and he did his best.
He saw that everyone was looking at Tara and Lily, except for Lorraine, whose eyes were staring fixedly at him.
Swallowing hard, Crow continued to write, and wondered what would happen next …